Laguna Beach is like the Hollywood of Orange County — a rare, crazy, inexplicable thing that is loved to death.
Filled with well-meaning tourists, both towns suffer from the impact of the multitudes.
The difference is Hollywood doesn’t have a protected ocean, fragile ecosystems or limited transportation.
The stars in our tidepools are not like the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, shielded in marble and impervious to pain.
Our little hillsides are becoming like mini freeways, filled with multipurpose zealots intent on having a good time at any cost.
Our traffic, meanwhile, becomes paralyzed if a deer gets hit on Laguna Canyon Road.
So in our polite, glacial, consensus-building way, we pass overdue laws, ordinances and rules. We remember history and dust off consultant reports from the 1980s, which already told us what to do.
Build a bigger parking structure.
Build wider roads.
Build a bigger entrance to the city so people feel more welcome.
And like Hollywood, here’s what happens: The people come.
The streets get lined with tacky trinket shops because that’s what the masses want.
Street merchants wave tour bus brochures, touting exclusive routes to the rich and famous.
The tourists traipse around like they own the place — because they do.
The wear and tear becomes visible, leaving only litter and resignation. You quickly get beaten down by the onslaught.
Ironically, what does everyone in Hollywood do when things become too much? They come to Laguna to get away, to escape, to forget their worries.
Despite everything, Laguna is still Laguna.
“Romantic … exclusive … breathtaking … distinguished … rich … expansive.”
Those were some of the words used to describe Laguna recently by a twentysomething young tourist off Hollywood Boulevard. She thought of Laguna like a toy.
Make no mistake, tourism is an industry, and Laguna is nowhere near Hollywood’s league, which operates like a well-oiled machine nearly 24 hours a day.
We sputter for three months.
But things are changing — and will change more quickly if we continue to build out our infrastructure.
It’s no secret that those demure-sounding subdivisions like “Laguna Altura” in adjacent cities — master planned with hundreds or thousands of homes — will fill any parking structure we build.
And when they come, Laguna locals try to leave. It’s like this cycle of ingress and egress where no one considers themselves tourists.
Yet we all are to some degree. Maybe we are not wearing starch white tennis shoes or fanny packs. We don’t stand at the corner crosswalk, gawking at nothing in particular, oblivious to the waiting cars.
In Hollywood, it’s the people who shuffle, heads down, staring at the stars on the sidewalk. The locals power walk past them, feeling superior.
I think it occurred to me then: Hollywood and Laguna are pretty much the same.
Someday soon, Laguna will have more of those big tour buses pulling into our shiny new parking garage. There will be more street merchants, hawking brochures and barking like seals.
But will there be any sea life left for the tourists to see?
Will all this carbon dioxide spilling into the water continue to kill everything?
The science is sounding grim.
Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.